Clark's Science Fiction Review Policy

80 Responses

  1. KR says:

    I find Mieville unreadable, myself.

    I've wanted to get into Banks but haven't. Where would you recommend I start?

  2. ZarroTsu says:

    My fingers are crossed for someone's horrible fan-fiction to make it on the review list for you to tear apart.

    (Mieville / Banks: A. Scalzi: B-. That 'Fifty Shades' lady: F)

    I really don't need to ask, but I feel obligated: Where would 'Twilight' be on that grade? An (F-)? A (Z)?

  3. Jonathan says:

    I find Mieville's stories to be very interesting, and fairly deep.

    But my god his prose is overwrought, and then overwrought again.

  4. david says:

    Hmmm . . . I hope that "A" for Mieville is based on only two, perhaps 3, of his works. There are some godawful stinkers in his back catalogue ie Iron Council, Railsea, City . . .

    One wonders . . .but also looks forwards to what will hopefully be some highly amusing yet erudite reviews and comments :D

  5. Clark says:

    @ZarroTsu

    My fingers are crossed for someone's horrible fan-fiction to make it on the review list for you to tear apart.

    Eh. I'm really not that into cruelty. I was very intentionally trying to overstate how mean I would be so that no one will send me something that they are not prepared to have criticized.

    If I got something really bad, (a) I wouldn't finish it, (b) I probably wouldn't review it, (c) if I reviewed it, the review would be short and factual and end on an upbeat note like "I think this author can do better; I look forward to future attempts."

    (Mieville / Banks: A. Scalzi: B-. That 'Fifty Shades' lady: F)

    I really don't need to ask, but I feel obligated: Where would 'Twilight' be on that grade? An (F-)? A (Z)?

    Never read it; all I know about it is this:

  6. Clark says:

    @david

    Hmmm . . . I hope that "A" for Mieville is based on only two, perhaps 3, of his works. There are some godawful stinkers in his back catalogue ie Iron Council, Railsea, City . . .

    Iron Council was, in fact, lame.

    City and the City aimed high, accomplished some things, and ended up as just a B.

    Embassytown aimed high, and in a particular academic neo-Marxist direction, and failed.

    So, actually, yeah. Point taken.

  7. Clark says:

    If I may replace "overwrought" (over worked) with the pretty similar term "baroque" (highly ornamented), I would agree. Mieville aims for and delivers a literary experience that is more lush than the current taste in stripped down minimalism.

    On the other hand, I think his writing is much less baroque than that of, say, Cormac McCarthy, etc.

  8. Dan says:

    If you like post-apocalyptic fiction, make sure you read Earth Abides by George R. Stewart. One of my favorite books of all time; it's just fantastic.

  9. Bear says:

    Well heck. If people are going to push their own books at you, have a few of mine (all freebies). These are PDFs (that being what the majority of my readers requested), but if Clark is interested in any of them, I can get mobi conversions.

    Net Assets (2003 Prometheus nominee)
    What would you do, how far would you go, for freedom?
    Net Assets is the story of people who push all the limits – technological, political, personal – to develop an affordable space launch system which anyone can use. It is also the story of those who would anything to stop them. Anything.
    Bussjaeger examines the laws, treaties, and technology that make or break the old dream: real space development and colonization by real people, out of the reach of government bureaucracies that fear the consequences of unlimited freedom.
    http://www.bussjaeger.org/Net_Assets_the_Authorized_Edition_by_Carl_Bussjaeger.pdf

    Bargaining Position
    Sequel to Net Assets.
    An oddball pair of extremely individualistic asteroid miners on a speculative journey to the far reaches of the solar system think they have struck it rich: an ancient, robotic space probe apparently free for salvage. But who built it, and do they want it back? And is it really an unmanned robot?
    While grappling with those issues and suddenly quirky automation problems of their own, a few more people decide they want the probe for themselves.
    Is this First Contact? How do they define contact? How do they define life?
    http://www.bussjaeger.org/Bargaining_Position_by_Carl_Bussjaeger.pdf

    The Anarchy Belt
    A collection of short stories by the author of Net Assets and Bargaining Position. 24 tales of people dealing with new problems, and a few old ones in new contexts. Includes 12 more stories in the NA/BP universe.
    Piracy on the high frontier, high tech rednecks, revolution against… the post office?, psychopath training simulators, the right to keep and bear nukes, and much more.
    http://www.bussjaeger.org/The_Anarchy_Belt_by_Carl_Bussjaeger.pdf

    And for those interested,there's more (free!) fiction and articles on my web site.

  10. It will make my day – heck, probably my week or month- if someone submits a book to you to review, you destroy it, and they turn around and threaten to sue.

  11. Clark says:

    @Bear:

    if Clark is interested in any of them, I can get mobi conversions.

    If you can convert to .mobi easily / for free, please do so. A Prometheus award nominee is in my wheelhouse. On the other hand, the chance of me having time to read it is below 50%, so don't pay money or spend too much effort.

  12. Clark says:

    It will make my day – heck, probably my week or month- if someone submits a book to you to review, you destroy it, and they turn around and threaten to sue.

    That would be choice.

    Gotta stay on good terms with Ken…

  13. Kilroy says:

    Call me Clark. but I don't think you actually get to take the Ahab role from Ken, more of the Starbuck character in you and Popehat is your Pequod.

  14. Bear says:

    @Clark: since I'm not writing professionally any longer (long story involving bootlegged editions, fraud, Amazon, Smashwords, taxes, etc) , I wouldn't put any money into the conversions. [grin]

    Said conversions are ready for you. You want them at "clark at popehat dot com"? If not, email me at "carl-at-bussjaeger-dot-org" to tell me where to send 'em.

  15. Clark says:

    > You want them at "clark at popehat dot com"?

    Yes please!

  16. Bear says:

    On their way. Check your inbox.

  17. Craig says:

    Clark, if "absurd premise" alone was grounds for a bad review, then you couldn't possibly have liked Mieville's "The City and the City", which I think you have mentioned favorably in the past. I liked the book myself, but you have to admit that the idea of two cities physically intertwined, with a psychological rule against consciously noticing anyone or anything in the "other" city (but you still have to not bump into them) is utterly and completely unbelievable. It is an interesting metaphor; it made for an interesting story; and it might lead one to think about the things we see on a daily basis that we intentionally decide not to see (homeless people standing with "please help" signs at intersections, for example), but taken literally it's completely insane (as, in fact, would be the people living in such a situation).

  18. David says:

    Miéville writes like an angry Stephen R. Donaldson who isn't trying to ape Tolkien.

  19. Clark says:

    @Craig

    Clark, if "absurd premise" alone was grounds for a bad review, then you couldn't possibly have liked Mieville's "The City and the City"

    Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi.

    If Mieville and Jack Vance can pull it off, Mieville and Jack Vance can pull it off.

    Most authors can't, and they shouldn't embarass themselves by trying.

    "The City and the City" is what I think of as the beginning of Mieville's "mankind is socially constructed" cycle of novels. C.f. The New Soviet Man and Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. Mieville is doing hard-line communist work, and he's doing it well.

    you have to admit that the idea of two cities physically intertwined, with a psychological rule against consciously noticing anyone or anything in the "other" city (but you still have to not bump into them) is utterly and completely unbelievable.

    You clearly haven't spent much time on Beacon Hill or in Harvard Yard.

    it might lead one to think about the things we see on a daily basis that we intentionally decide not to see (homeless people standing with "please help" signs at intersections, for example)

    Indeed.

    but taken literally it's completely insane (as, in fact, would be the people living in such a situation).

    Indeed.

  20. Clark says:

    @David

    Miéville writes like an angry Stephen R. Donaldson

    I thought that that ecological niche was already filled.

    …by Stephen R. Donaldson.

  21. David says:

    As noted, SRD fills the niche of angry SRDs who are trying school the Reuel.

    One of China's merits is that he apparently couldn't care less about John Ronald's monarchistic vision. ;)

  22. Clark says:

    school the Reuel

    Nice one.

    Had to use Google to help me unpack it.

    Related: a read a phenomenally perceptive review of SRD's Thomas series recently and am trying to find it now. Adam Roberts? Someone else? Looking…

  23. Craig says:

    Mieville is doing hard-line communist work, and he's doing it well.

    Yes, that's true. Note how Breach is essentially the cities' Secret Police or Stasi, and at the end of the book, the protagonist is invited to join them and considers it a noble thing. I don't have the book in front of me at the moment, but he says something like, "I enforce the law that makes the two laws possible," meaning the two separate legal systems and cultures of the two intertwined cities. My view is more like, "You enforce the law that require the people of your cities to live in a perpetual state of psychosis and denial."

    He's an interesting writer, and I'm sure he would be an interesting person to have a discussion with, but I don't think he and I would find much to agree on philosophically or politically. I do admire the fact that he publicly resigned from the UK Socialist Workers' Party over the sexual abuse allegations made against their leader and the Party's subsequent attempt to sweep the scandal under the rug.

  24. Janrae says:

    I'm co-owner of a tiny micro press and we have a few post apocalypse books and collections. Would it be okay with you if I simply posted some freebie coupon codes for smashwords here in comments? It would be far easier for me to do so.

  25. Shawn says:

    If you can convert to .mobi easily / for free, please do so.

    I use Calilbre for all my conversions to Mobi, and it works very very well… Not sure how I got the software, but I know it was either free or dirt cheap for how much I use it! (I put 2-3 novels and 4-5 work related resources on my Nook each week!)

    Edit to Add: Googled it, looks like it's free with a donation button.

  26. Sheriff Fathead says:

    I thought that The City and The City was no more nor less than Miéville cross-breeding cold-war Berlin with Baarle-Hertog, and turning the volume up to 11.

  27. SirWired says:

    I'm glad I'm not the only one that occasionally reads a self-published book with hundreds of five-star reviews (and very few negative reviews) and found it to be juvenile, shallow, pointless, unedited, dreck.

    I've come to the conclusion that there is some kind of self-published-author circle-jerk out there where everyone boosts everyone else's self-esteem by writing glowing reviews of something that any sane editor would toss directly into the circular file. (Either that or paid reviews.) Because I cannot think what literate person out of middle school would write such glowing reviews for some of this stuff.

    But I'm not down on self-published SF; I'd say it makes up 1/3rd of my reading, and most of what I pick up is at least readable, and some of it is excellent. I find the quality of a self-published debut SF novel seems to be roughly inversely proportional to its length. An epic-length debut novel is highly likely to be in dire need of, at best, an editor, or at worst, burning.

    Most of my purchase ideas come from either the SF Kindle Deal of the Day, or my Amazon recommendations. And I ALWAYS read the negative reviews to see what the weak points are to determine if they'd really bother me.

  28. Sinij says:

    I will have to send my self-published furry-fied Harry Potter slash Kirk "sci"-fiction to Clark. He asked for it, or he wouldn't blog dressed like that.

  29. Clark says:

    @Janrae:

    I'm co-owner of a tiny micro press and we have a few post apocalypse books and collections. Would it be okay with you if I simply posted some freebie coupon codes for smashwords here in comments? It would be far easier for me to do so.

    I'm explicitly disavowing the idea of setting a precedent (that's pending a conversation with Ken and others), but for this thread, for you: sure. Go ahead.

  30. Ivraatiems says:

    Wikipedia's synopsis of Slow River is as follows: "Lore Van de Oest was born in one of the mightiest families on earth. However, she suddenly loses everything."

    I am inexplicably miffed that for once I can't absorb the entire contents of a potentially interesting book through a poorly written summary, and now am faced with the prospect of actually reading and enjoying it instead.

  31. scav says:

    @KR: Start with Player of Games. I think it's the best of the Culture novels. Others have their own favourites.

    As for China Mieville: Perdido Street Station is indeed an acquired taste, but if you can acquire or at least accommodate it, it sets the scene for The Scar, which I think is a better story.

    I liked The City and The City. It takes considerable mastery to take such an insane premise, construct some kind of coherent scenario, ask "what if…?" about it, and then provide the reader with a satisfying answer. Not everyone can do that. And admittedly not everyone wants it done to them.

  32. adam says:

    i think that the dinosaur erotica link should have come with a warning. up until this point in my life i have lived happily never once thinking about zoophilia with dinosaurs. sadly, that door can now never be closed.

  33. melK says:

    So the question that stands out in my mind, Clark, is: Are you also planning on becoming an Editor? Which is a lot like someone on a blog who publishes reviews, except the reviews are really specific and only sent to the author. And unlike the "Friend of the Author" position, Editors are often paid.

    It's only a small step. C'mon, you know you want to… :)

  34. amac78 says:

    Clark's link to "dinosaur erotica" actually brings up a page of… dinosaur erotica!

    Who knew?

  35. Vince Clortho says:

    Thank you for introducing me to the amazing world of Dinosaur Erotica, Clark. I'm sure I will be a better man for it.

  36. Clark says:

    @adam

    i think that the dinosaur erotica link should have come with a warning.

    The phrase "dinosaur erotica" is the warning.

    …and you clicked it!

    (c.f. "You had one job")

  37. Jamoche says:

    "vast majority of what actually hit Barnes & Noble shelves was at least competent"

    And yet that's what Sturgeon's Law was referring to. So the corollary must be "every level of filtering removes the crappiest 90%".

  38. whheydt says:

    I am somewhat bemused by the insistence on a particular format. This is because, I saw years of budding young authors complain bitterly when told by experienced (and, frequently, published) writers telling them to submit manuscripts in standard manuscript format–and that otherwise their work wouldn't get read. The established writers would then go on to tell the just what "manuscript format" is.

    The critical point was generally that the new writers wanted their manuscript to look like a "book" and it had to be pointed out that publishers don't *buy* books–they buy *manuscripts*.

    My wife's take on self publishing is that if a publishing house won't buy her work, then she doesn't want anyone else reading it as (to her) it does not rise to publishable quality and should not see the light of day. I suspect that she errs in this assessment, however it does mean that the works of hers that have been rejected won't be published by any means while she lives, so anyone who wants to read her works will be restricted to those efforts that got into print (2 novels and about 30 short stories).

    As for reading the works of others, she is the originator (at least in the formal sense of naming the text) of the Eight Deadly Words ("I don't care what happens to these people."), the utterance of which is sometimes followed by impact of book against wall. I don't recommend doing that with a Kindle.

  39. Clark says:

    @whheydt

    I am somewhat bemused by the insistence on a particular format.

    See also "my artistic vision is so unique and important that I don't care what the conventions are!".

    There are billions of precious little snowflakes.

    …but if you want to interface with someone else's API, you have to interface with someone's API.

    My wife's take on self publishing is that if a publishing house won't buy her work, then she doesn't want anyone else reading it as (to her) it does not rise to publishable quality and should not see the light of day. I suspect that she errs in this assessment, however it does mean that the works of hers that have been rejected won't be published by any means while she lives, so anyone who wants to read her works will be restricted to those efforts that got into print

    If "quality" was the only thing that led to rejections, her policy would make sense.

    However "current trends", "what people are buying this week", "what the Sally the slush-reading intern likes", and "my politics are not your politics and that makes me angry" all factor in.

    Which is to say, I agree with you that your wife is too strict.

    (2 novels and about 30 short stories).

    Links?

  40. Craig says:

    Whether most of what gets onto the shelves at B&N is "competent" depends on your definition of competent. By my standards, most of it is worthless garbage.

    As for self-publishing, I don't rule out the possibility of a good book coming from Lulu Press, iUniverse, or similar just-in-time publishers who will happily take any PDF you give them. History does show examples of self-published authors who created classics we still read today. However, pretty much without exception, every self-published novel I've glanced at using Amazon's "Look Inside" feature has been such worthless, incompetent, semi-literate, cliche-riddled, unreal trash that I can only assume that the author's personal friends, similarly illiterate, are responsible for any and all favorable reviews. Usually the first page is sufficient for judgment: either you get an "It was a dark and stormy night" opening, or the author can't assemble a coherent paragraph, or doesn't know how to establish a scene, or obviously knows nothing about the kind of people she (for some reason, it's usually a she) is trying to write about.

  41. Michael K. says:

    I'm sorry to hear about your mom, Clark.

  42. whheydt says:

    Re: Clark (link request)

    Not to the full text, but descriptions and short samples. Not all the short stories are listed (haven't updated in a while):

    http://www.kithrup.com/~djheydt/

  43. AlphaCentauri says:

    Dinosaur erotica is just fantasy, since they're extinct. But Booty Call of Cthulhu (Paranormal, Tentacles, Dubious Consent Erotica)? That's something that would keep you up at night. ;)

  44. Clark says:

    @Michael K.

    I'm sorry to hear about your mom, Clark.

    That was purely a hypothetical.

    My mom did not die.

    In fact, I don't even have a mother.

    My origins are much more mysterious than that.

  45. Erwin says:

    @whheydt The publishing houses aren't exactly filtering for quality. They're filtering, justifiably, for profitability. By now, they've figured out how many copies of a given work and subject they need to sell to be profitable. (In the neighborhood of a quarter million USD gross per book, with the costs split between the author, the editors, marketing, distribution, and bookstores.) These aren't robber barons, just people working in a declining and not particularly profitable industry that is being disrupted.*

    The great thing about eBooks is that they allow slightly profitable self-publishing of formats and subjects that would be massively unprofitable even if the author worked for free.

    I've read a lot of high-quality eBooks that have too specific an appeal to be publishable. I've also read a lot of mid-quality eBooks that are fun, but just not quite good enough to be profitable. I've also read a lot of published books that just suck, but are profitable because they poke certain common areas in the id. Sure, the quality is a bit lower, because they usually can't afford an editor…but I'm not so picky that I won't read a story because of a few grammatical errors.

    The horrible thing about eBooks is that they allow self-publishing of formats and subjects that would be massively unprofitable even if the author worked for free.

    …and yes…there's a lot of crazy people who can finally publish their work and whose writing makes my mind bleed.

    The painful thing, for publishers, is that there's going to be a tipping point someday where massively successful authors (who are the ones who actually tip the talent sheets positive…) start cutting out the publishers and distributing purely via ebooks. (70% of half the market is still better than 15% of the whole market.)

    –Erwin

  46. Dan Hill says:

    @Clark

    Seeing my name lead off one of your posts has made my day!

    Novels in mobi format are on their way to you. Shyness was not the problem, I just didn't want to hijack the discussion with a sales pitch. I hate it when people do that.

  47. Jonathan says:

    The painful thing, for publishers, is that there's going to be a tipping point someday where massively successful authors (who are the ones who actually tip the talent sheets positive…) start cutting out the publishers and distributing purely via ebooks.

    The day that we stop publishing in paper will be a sad day. I love real books.

  48. George William Herbert says:

    Re "The City and The City" -

    CJ Cherryh wrote a bunch of psychological limitation fiction and had one remarkably similar concept book "Wave without a Shore", from 1981. Humans colonized a world which already had a native species but were psychologically adjusted to not see the aliens, to keep on working as if they weren't there.

    And lest one thing this is not possible to do for real, it does not take a lot of psychological tweaking to cause people to Not See things:

    Police – Rail commuters on phones didn't notice gun

  49. David Lang says:

    another article on the topic of "If it's not published by a traditional publisher, it must not be any good"

    http://bondwine.com/2013/10/04/told-by-an-idiot-no-6/

    short version Huck Fin was indie published, according to this logic, Mark Twain is just an unpublishable hack.

    Also according to this logic fifty shades of grey was drek when it was indie published, but with no changes, it became 'literature' the day that a traditional publisher decided to publish it.

  50. George William Herbert says:

    50 shades *was* dreck, and was edited by the traditional publisher (not that the drek was removed thereby, but it helped…).

  51. Justin Kittredge says:

    @KR & scav

    I've wanted to get into Banks but haven't. Where would you recommend I start?

    I usually tell people "Consider Phlebas" is the only Sci-Fi Banks novel that MUST be read first. After that they can be read in any order. But it ain't a rule.
    scav's pick, "The Player of Games" is easily one of my favorites. It is also one I picked up and put down a number of times, having acquired many books with more of an action element in them at the same time.

    I recommended "Excession" be read second to my own brother, whom I loaned all but the latest of the books to.

    My bias is that without the books to refresh my memory, the last five culture books (including The Algebraist) blur into one giant block of awesomeness, whereas the three I mention here are distinct in my memory.

  52. JorgXMckie says:

    "even if you once spilled your beer on me and insulted my mom's memory at her funeral."

    Would that be on the same day or on different days?

  53. Clark says:

    "even if you once spilled your beer on me and insulted my mom's memory at her funeral."

    Would that be on the same day or on different days?

    Either way, you'll still get a fair review.

    But for horrific humor, the idea is that you did both – you showed up blitzed out of your mind at the funeral – still drinking ! – and started making lewd remarks.

    The cringe worthiness is so high it could be made as a "comedy" by the "BBC".

  54. Elf says:

    Big Paper served an actual function: it took the bell curve of the slush pile, chopped off the left 95%, and ensured that the vast majority of what actually hit Barnes & Noble shelves was at least competent.

    Thank you for this.

    I love the diversity of ebook self-publishing. I read a lot of self-pub'd ebooks. I read a lot of samples of truly atrocious writing that would never even have been sent to a publisher if the author (and I use that term loosely) had to pay postage for it. I read a lot more that really needed an editor to be fit to share with the public.

    There are indeed many excellent novels that would never get past the slushpile gatekeepers, either because they didn't hit the editor's preferences this week or because their market demographic is too small to bother with. But at least the mainstream publishers don't release books that claim to feature "a series of viscous murders."

    Sidenote to people who want to convert to mobi: Calibre is the best multi-format conversion program available right now, and it's free & open source. It's not great with PDFs. Nothing is great with PDFs, because PDFs were designed as an end format. Quality of conversion from PDF depends on the program(s) that created the PDF, not the program doing the conversion. In case of botched/unreadable conversion (like hard returns after every line of text), convert to doc/rtf, edit that, and convert that to mobi.

    Or head over to Mobileread and ask for specific help.

  55. Mr A says:

    @Clark – I haven't read The City and The City, but I think I caught the movie adaptation… you know, the one with Rowdy Roddy Piper and a pair of sunglasses?

  56. George William Herbert says:

    Mr A:

    I haven't read The City and The City, but I think I caught the movie adaptation… you know, the one with Rowdy Roddy Piper and a pair of sunglasses?

    The Future's So Bright…

  57. Clark says:

    @Clark – I haven't read The City and The City, but I think I caught the movie adaptation… you know, the one with Rowdy Roddy Piper and a pair of sunglasses?

    1) LOL!

    2) I've come here to preach post structuralism and write science fiction…and I'm all out of science fiction.

  58. Clark says:

    a series of viscous murders.

    Sounds like a sticky situation.

  59. whheydt says:

    Alright… So how many of you have read (or attempted to read) The Eye of Argon?

  60. Elf says:

    Sounds like a sticky situation.

    The Molasses Murderer strikes again!

    I'm hoping you get a number of novels you find interesting enough to review. Without the traditional gatekeepers, the self-pub/indie ebook industry is a giant slushpile, with many authors who attempt to game the system by handing out freebies in exchange for 5-star reviews. (This hasn't been helped by Amazon banning authors from giving reviews on books in their genre.)

    I've stopped trying to find science fiction ebooks at Smashwords because the search engine is terrible and I don't have time to wade through the drek. I miss reading science fiction–just not enough to deal with DRM, and not enough to stop reading other things to figure out where the good books are.

    @whheydt
    I have a txt copy of Eye of Argon on my ereader. And a filksong about it.

  61. Aaron says:

    Clark, would you be willing to write a recommendations post for what books you'd recommend we read?

    Fiction or nonfiction, anarcho-capitalist or not. I always like adding books to and removing books from my to-read pile.

  62. Aaron says:

    @whheydt

    Alright… So how many of you have read (or attempted to read) The Eye of Argon?

    I've done the drinking game version (like the competitive reading version, but with drinking) at a friend's birthday party. We got about halfway through it.

  63. Charles Bent says:

    I would look forward to your science fiction reviews, Clark. I don't have time to shop for science fiction anymore so I can only scan websites looking for recommendations.

    > I love post apocalyptic novels.

    Seconded. "Canticle For Leibowitz" by Walter M. Miller is at the top of my list and probably won't be bested in my lifetime. "Riddley Walker" by Russell Hoban and "Dr. Bloodmoney" by Philip K. Dick would be tied for next place.

    The 15-part 1981 NPR presentation of "Canticle for Leibowitz" is an excellent winter's night passing:

    http://archive.org/details/ACanticleForLiebowitz

  64. Clark says:

    @Charles Bent:

    "Canticle For Leibowitz" by Walter M. Miller is at the top of my list

    Yep.

    "Riddley Walker" by Russell Hoban

    Yep.

    "Dr. Bloodmoney" by Philip K. Dick

    New to me – noted!

    The 15-part 1981 NPR presentation of "Canticle for Leibowitz" is an excellent winter's night passing

    Huh! Also new to me. Thanks.

  65. G. Filotto says:

    Sent the mobi file. And thanks for mentioning me. Here I was thinking ignoring my tweet about the books was kinda expected but ignoring the one about how privatising justice would probably lead to a monopoly on the use of force (that is, one that may end being even worse than the one government has now) was just rude. And then I come here and see my name in lights. And I also remember you did this while fending off feral youths with only a machete (to save ammo) and I realised my stupidity. Clearly, were you not fighting for survival, the protection of your salted meat and sexy wife, you would have no doubt expanded on your anarcap philosophy so that we could trade notes with my essentially Spooner based anarchy but with an element of limited "justice department limited in its powers by armed citizens but empowered in its power by a higher adherence to ethical (not moral! Ethical) principles" idea.
    Let me know if you still want the paper version of the books, not for reading so much, but as portable stores of flammable fire starters. I'd be happy to send them. Although I expect having Kevin Costner deliver them could send anyone over the edge.

  66. Janrae says:

    Thank you, Clark for saying that it is okay for this thread.
    This one is for Diaries of Becka by Tim Willard, creator of the Year of the Zombies rpg and set in that world.
    Promotional price: $0.00
    Coupon Code: LD66D
    Expires: November 11, 2013

    Sojourners in Shadow by Steven Beeho is a collection of short stories set in the same post apocalypse earth.

    Promotional price: $0.00
    Coupon Code: UK53Q
    Expires: November 11, 2013

    Everyone who wants one can go get them from Smashwords.
    Again thank you.

  67. amblingon says:

    Based on the tastes people have expressed here, I strongly recommend Peter Watts- he posts his stories online for free, as a result of a dispute with his publisher, and they're amazing. I think his best work is also his shortest story, Blindsight, available here:
    http://www.rifters.com/real/Blindsight.htm

  68. Tiak says:

    Just a random shout out for Sci-Fi I like. I'm going to have to look at some of the stuff Clark and other have posted, as most of it I haven't heard of.

    Neal Stephenson books – Especially Snow Crash and The Diamond Age.

    Anything by Jack Campbell/John G Hemry (same guy, Jack is a pen name)

    Ready Player One

    And I might get hate for this, but I thought Neuromancer was awful.

  69. Aaron says:

    So where do ya'll go to get your self-published e-books? I normally frequent the Baen WebscriptionsEbook Store, and while they have books from smaller publishers on there as well, I don't think they have any self-published.

    Mieville / Banks: A. Scalzi: B-. That 'Fifty Shades' lady: F

    Ya know…I almost got mad at your rating of what I've read of Scalzi so far, but then I thought it's not that unfair of a rating. I'd probably go B+, maybe A- depending on the book.

  70. Clark says:

    @Aaron

    So where do ya'll go to get your self-published e-books?

    I go by recommendations from blogs, friends of friends, etc.

    I buy via Amazon.

    Baen

    I read a fair bit of Baen, but I think we have to be up front that it's not really synonymous with "good literature".

    Ya know…I almost got mad at your rating of what I've read of Scalzi so far, but then I thought it's not that unfair of a rating.

    What do you see in Scalzi?

    As the old joke goes, "what is good is not new, and what is new is not good".

    Scalzi doesn't seem to have a creative bone in his body. He does pastiches of better writer's characters and worlds. It's fanfic, basically. And merely acceptable fanfic at that.

    My two cents.

  71. Aaron says:

    Ah, yes, well, the problem with Amazon is I don't have nor will I ever get a Kindle. I like having the book files actually _in_ my possession. Sorry, I know, digital and all that. But it makes it so much easier and I don't have to worry about random acts of censorship. Oh, and I can just simply hook up my e-reader via USB cable and drag & drop books onto it. Or, preferably, use Calibre to manage and load the books onto it.

    I read a fair bit of Baen, but I think we have to be up front that it's not really synonymous with "good literature".

    Well, I hardly think most Sci-Fi/Fantasy falls under what is termed "good literature". Of course, I think that's a snobbish way of looking at it. I'll freely admit I just sometimes like simple, straight forward fun Sci-Fi like much of what John Ringo writes. But I do have my standards, and I don't necessarily always go for the latest that pops up from Baen. The Humble Ebook Bundles have actually been pretty good, although I need to get around reading most of them.

    What do you see in Scalzi?

    As the old joke goes, "what is good is not new, and what is new is not good".

    Scalzi doesn't seem to have a creative bone in his body. He does pastiches of better writer's characters and worlds. It's fanfic, basically. And merely acceptable fanfic at that.

    My two cents.

    Ok, so I haven't read most of his stuff, just a couple of books. I enjoyed Old Man's war a good bit, and his newer book Redshirts was pretty hilarious. Definitely campy, but it fits with the premise of the book. Sorta. But other than that, now looking at his book list, I haven't read anything.

    I've actually been going back to Clarke & Asimov & Heinlein recently, re-reading or reading for the first time a lot of their work.

  72. Erwin says:

    Glah. Redshirts? First and last Scalzi book. I assume some of his other works must have been better, or perhaps not my cup of tea.

    Banks is great. Vernor Vinge did one amazing book, but then he kind of tapered off. For some reason, Mary Gentle's Black Opera was amazingly entertaining – and I usually can't finish her stuff. Stross is sometimes fun. Most of the Malazan stuff is fun too.

    For self-published, I liked Littlestar and the Lodestone Trilogy. Oh, and Waldo Rabbit – much funnier than Scalzi.

    –Erwin

  73. Erwin says:

    Glah. Redshirts? First and last Scalzi book. I assume some of his other works must have been better, or perhaps not my cup of tea.

    Banks is great. Vernor Vinge did one amazing book, but then he kind of tapered off. For some reason, Mary Gentle's Black Opera was amazingly entertaining – and I usually can't finish her stuff. Stross is sometimes fun. Most of the Malazan stuff is fun too.

    For self-published, I liked Littlestar and the Lodestone Trilogy. Oh, and Waldo Rabbit – much funnier than Scalzi.

    –Erwin

  74. Aaron says:

    Also great: Theodore Sturgeon. Although it's not scifi, Bright Segment is among my favorite short stories. Thunder and Roses is also phenomenally good as a short story. Really, anything by Sturgeon.

  75. Anony Mouse says:

    I've come to the conclusion that there is some kind of self-published-author circle-jerk out there where everyone boosts everyone else's self-esteem by writing glowing reviews of something that any sane editor would toss directly into the circular file.

    It's hardly unique to self-published authors. Most any fanfic or artwork will have people praising it to the heavens. Either people are afraid to hurt feelings, or they just feel that all art is worthy of praise regardless of merit.

    Or they just have terrible taste.

  76. Anony Mouse says:

    I'd also like to toss a shoutout to Temporary Duty by the late Ric Locke. It's not hard sci-fi by any stretch. In fact, it's so space opera-y that it's practically hanging out with 60's pulp sci-fi, but it was a lot of fun.

    As an aside, I really miss those cheap pulp sci-fi books from the 60s. The ones were you got two stories and read the second one by flipping the book and reading from the other side. Anyone remember those? I tried a couple of Nook compilations, but they fell far short (although one collection did contain Dick's Second Variety, which was a nice treat).

  77. whheydt says:

    Re: Anony Mouse

    "Ace Doubles".

    On the topic of "space opera"….no one (so far) has mentioned the true master of that sub-genre of SF: E. E. "Doc" Smith.

    Smith was, by the way, the first SF author to use an inter*stellar* setting for SF in "The Skylark of Space", which was written prior to 1920. In two different series, you worked with the old familiar problem of "Just how do you top THAT?" In the Skylark books, he wound up with a ship that was, IIRC, 1000 miles in diameter (and, so far as I can tell, missing from–and much larger than the ones shown–the recently popular poster showing the scale of different fictional spaceships). His final "battle" destroyed two *galaxies* (Skylar duQuesne).

    In the Lensmen series, his heroes created a supernova, after already using entire solar systems as a giant vacuum tubes to focus a stars entire energy output into a destructive beam.

    One can see why George Lucas wanted to film the Lensmen series and had to settle for his own space epic (Star Wars) when he couldn't get the film rights from Smith's estate.

    Other unmentioned greats of SF… Poul Anderson and Randall Garrett (one could argue that the Lord d'Arcy stories are fantasy…).

  78. Anony Mouse says:

    Ah yes, thank you whheydt. Now to find a copy of Star Whoops. At least I think that was the name…

    I remember 'Doc' Smith. Have his Lensmen series on my Nook. It can actually be hard to read at times because the technology can be so… goofy (deisel-powered space ships?!). Also, because every conversation I hear in my head like something from His Girl Friday, and keeping that rapid-fire pace can be exhausting.

  79. Castaigne says:

    @KR: I've wanted to get into Banks but haven't. Where would you recommend I start?

    I recommend first reading "The Player of Games". Although it is the second book in the Culture series, I find it to be a better introduction than the first, "Consider Phlebas".

    I might also recommend the "Revelation Space" series by Alastair Reynolds, the "Demon Princes" and "Planet of Adventure" series by Jack Vance, the "Sentients of Orion" series by Marianne de Pierres, the Starfishers trilogy by Glenn Cook, and the Takeshi Kovacs trilogy by Richard K Morgan.

    And if any of you really hate Communist/Socialist governments (yes, including you, Clark), I recommend the Greg Mandel trilogy by Peter F Hamilton.

  80. whheydt says:

    Re: Anony Mouse

    About that diesel powered speedster… Remember back in Triplanetary they started using allotropic Iron and then later switched to some unspecified "atomic power". Since their atomic power systems hashed up the detectors, the diesel power plant was primarily to extend the detection range (5 times normal! Woohoo!).

    The tech I thought you'd complain about is all the vacuum tube jargon Smith threw in.